Effect of the level of inquiry on student interactions in chemistry laboratories

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22 Scopus citations


The central goal of our exploratory study was to investigate differences in college chemistry students' interactions during lab experiments with different levels of inquiry. This analysis was approached from three major analytic dimensions: (i) functional analysis; (ii) cognitive processing; and (iii) social processing. According to our results, which were based on the qualitative analysis of direct observations of different groups of students working in general chemistry laboratories, experiments that involved higher levels of inquiry were associated with an increase in the frequency of episodes in which students engaged in proposing ideas versus asking and answering each others' questions. Higher levels of inquiry also favored episodes in which experimental work was approached in a more exploratory (versus procedural) manner. Increased levels of inquiry were also associated with more frequent episodes of domination in which a few students in a group directed the actions of others. In general, our results elicit trends and highlight issues that can help instructors identify strategies to better support and scaffold productive engagement in the laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 8 2013


  • Chemical Education Research
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Inquiry-Based/Discovery Learning
  • Student-Centered Learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Education


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